Transparency and FOI

A transparent government is one which is open, communicative, and accountable. Openness about decisions taken on the public’s behalf is one of the best ways to build public trust. The failure to embody these principles in Australian law is a large part of the reason public trust has broken down so spectacularly in recent years.

Principles around transparency find practical application in legislative requirements such as Freedom of Information (FOI) laws and whistleblower protections. To ensure openness, we believe FOI legislation should be enshrined and enhanced. Exemptions from FOI, which are currently wide and arbitrary, need to be narrower, time limited, and justified by a higher threshold of due cause. A similar strengthening should also apply to whistleblower protections given repeated instances of harsh and inappropriate retribution and deterrence targeted at whistleblowers in recent Australian history.

Greater transparency also needs to apply with regard to the movement of money in our public institutions. It should no longer be acceptable to shut down public scrutiny of public spending by invoking commercial-in-confidence clauses. Public oversight should never be blocked where spending of public money is concerned.

Political donations should also be subject to greater scrutiny so that the public can see who is funding and lobbying politicians.

The government should also be subject to a stronger principle of universality. The government is funded by all citizens, and consequently any services provided by the government and its authorised service providers need to be subject to a firm principle of non-discrimination.

Institutional transparency is one of the easiest ways Australia can improve government function and recover public trust. Pirate Party Australia will push hard for reform that improves Australia’s governance.